In the 1400s, Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, instantly revolutionizing the world of books, words, and literature. Since then, paper books have dominated for almost 600 years, enduring everything from economic hardship and world wars to rampant disease and political censorship. With the rise of the electronic age, however, their era may have finally come to an end. In recent years, Kindles have begun consistently outselling their hardcover counterparts, and just six weeks ago, Newsweek produced its last print issue and went digital. Even my local bookstore, which has been open for over 16 years, closed its doors for the final time last December. Now, it lies dark, quiet, and empty, and the only paper inside is plastered up against the windows.
This is not a call-to-arms against the e-book industry, nor is it a criticism of the modern advancements in technology. Such advancements have undoubtedly made our lives more convenient, and it would be unfair to expect bookstores and magazines to anchor themselves in the past, when it's clear that the future is a digital one. Yet although I appreciate how new innovations have made our lives faster, easier, and more efficient, I nevertheless remain opposed to the idea of paper books succumbing to this technological transition.
I may be old-fashioned, but in my eyes, e-books could never live up to the standard that paper books have set. Pressing an arrow on a screen will never bring the same satisfaction as turning a page in a book, nor will exiting an app ever equate to laying a cover down by my nightstand at night. After spending an entire day surrounded by technology, there's something comforting and even romantic about standing between rows of mahogany bookshelves at a library and picking one title from amidst thousands of colorful options, something exciting about receiving my National Geographic in the mail and sinking into a beanbag to read about far-off cultures and paths to nowhere.
I find it unsettling to think about how in just a few years, people will no longer spend hours huddled in a library corner with a paper book, but will instead read literary masterpieces online with Facebook and Gmail tabs open by the side. Technology is triumphing over tradition, and its eventual conquest is inevitable. But for me, clicking a button just isn't the same. The feeling I get from ruffling conquered pages to see the progress I've made, the satisfaction I receive from making cramped but insightful annotations in the margins of a text, and the pleasure I derive from balancing the weight of a hardcover book between my palms -- these are all experiences that technology could never replicate or replace. And whether it be stories about magical tree houses and funny talking pigs or works by Dostoevsky and Oscar Wilde, the countless paper books I keep stacked haphazardly on my bookshelf serve as a permanent testament to the works of literature that I've conquered and enjoyed.
Books just wouldn't feel right any other way.